Some Oakland students under quarantine after positive COVID tests

Several students in the Oakland Unified School District are under a 10-day quarantine at home, after some of their classmates tested positive for COVID-19.

A classroom of students at Montclair Elementary School was ordered to stay home as a precaution after the district said a total of five positive cases of the virus were reported at the school this week.

OUSD spokesman John Sasaki did not give a breakdown about how many of those five cases were among students, versus staff.

Students in a classroom at Oakland High School are also under 10-day quarantine, after nine positive COVID cases at that school.

The quarantines come a week after schools in the district reopened for full-day schedules for the first time in 17 months.

"I feel like we're going to be in this pandemic for a long time, unfortunately. I'm not totally surprised," said Montclair Elementary parent Alex Emmott. "It's really unfortunate. But I still support reopening schools. I think it's really important to get kids back into schools."

Other parents shared a similar viewpoint: "It was inevitable, but it's being handled the best it can be," said another Montclair Elementary parent, Celeste, who declined to give her last name. "We're doing our best to manage it as a community. We want our schools to stay open."

Celeste added that reverting back to widespread distance learning, like last year, was not an option for her family.

"We're choosing between the lesser of two evils and the alternative is that our children aren't getting to socialize," she said.

She is a single parent with a daughter in second grade, and she has to return to work.

Oakland Unified School District maintains a COVID-19 dashboard that allows it to track the number of positive cases, district-wide, each week. Right now there are 58 reported positive Covid cases among approximately 37,000 students.

"The cases we've seen were not brought into the schools," Sasaki said. "So far, we haven't seen cases that are transmitted within our schools."

Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist and infectious disease physician at UCSF, said that as long as segments of the community remain unvaccinated and there is community spread of the virus, there will be COVID-19 cases in schools.

"I think it's something we're probably going to have to make allowances to deal with, during the school year,"  Rutherford said. "We're going to have some transmission. We have to be prepared for it."

In Europe and other parts of U.S., some schools are implementing alternatives to mandatory 10-day quarantines.

"Instead of saying here are these 20 kids that got exposed in a class, instead of shutting the whole class down you can test the exposed, uninfected kids every day to see if there are any infections."

If students test positive, they're immediately sent home before going to class. If they test negative: "Then you can continue to educate them," Rutherford explained.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has implemented daily rapid testing for all students and staff at its schools.

Parents like Emmott hope her district and others find ways to manage likely COVID cases and exposures, without students missing too many days of school.

"We're in it for the long-term. I hope that after this winter things will get better. I'm optimistic that kids will be able to get vaccinated in the fall."